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Changing the World: New Books for Older Readers

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Sheinkin is a master of page-turning narrative nonfiction and this gripping thriller about the race to build the atom bomb is another winner. Drawing on a huge cast of characters and taking us all over the world, Bomb gives a clear and concise account that focuses on the Manhattan Project while ensuring the reader has a global perspective. This reads like a junior Tom Clancy novel but is exemplary nonfiction that includes thorough source notes and a bibliography.  Bomb is a must read for kids interested in the second world war or who like real-life adventures. (Grades 5-8)

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Some of the smartest graphic novels around are written by women and are about girls. Rana Telgemeier’s Smile has been enduringly popular with both girls and boys since its publication in 2010 and her new book, Drama, is likely to be equally as popular. Callie is on the tech crew for her middle school production of Moon over Mississippi.  As well as the drama onstage, there is the drama of being at middle school, and Callie goes through the ups and downs of friendships and crushes – knowing that in both cases the show must go on. Written with an optimistic outlook and real insight into teens and illustrated with cozy realism, Drama is sure be one of the popular crowd. (Grades 4-8)

Face Book by Chuck Close
Chuck Close is paralyzed from the chest down and suffers from face blindness.And  he creates wonderfully distinctive and often giant pictures of faces using many different media. His portraits are created on grids, with each space having its own abstract painting and only the whole makes up a face. This book is constructed in a similar way, with answers to questions such as “How did you find your style?” building up into a portrait of this fascinating artist. There is also a bonus central section made up of several self-portraits that flip into each other. (Grades 5-8)

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
Though this is in our teen collection, I think it’s also a great read for middle schoolers – either for a biography project or for leisure reading. Loosely themed around three stories that Jobs told the graduating class at Stanford in 2005, this is a warts and all portrait of the man who revolutionized personal computing, the music industry and telecommunications. It is an inspiring story of an academic dropout who’s passion and commitment would not let him stop at anything less than perfect – sometimes at the expense of his personal life and his health. Great reading for those who’ve never known a world without Apple. (Grades 6-10)

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle
Set in 19th century Cuba, this powerful verse novel is the tale of a young girl, Fefa. She is diagnosed with ‘word blindness’ (which we know as dyslexia) but her mother insists she can learn to read and write, and gives her a blank notebook to practice her writing in. Using this ‘wild book’ to write her own towers of words, Fefa conquers her difficulties and even uses her new-found skills to foil a kidnapping plot. Based on the true story of Engle’s grandmother, The Wild Book uses words like precious jewels to capture Fefa’s struggle and, ultimate, triumph. (Grades 5-9)

– Hayley

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